How to Determine if a Website is Secure
Normally a web site does not have security activated because most web pages only display publicly accessible information. However, when sensitive information is passed, SSL security is turned on. Internet browsers have a feature that allows you to determine if security is active. Encryption is a security technique used to protect information by making it unreadable during transmission. Secure websites use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology, which is the current industry standard for encryption. SSL works with secure browsers, like Netscape (version 2.0 or greater) and Internet Explorer (version 2.1 or greater). By using SSL, information is scrambled before it leaves your browser and is unscrambled when it reaches the website. Should someone intercept the transmission it will be unreadable and will be extremely difficult for them to translate into a readable message.
In Internet Explorer, you can tell if the site is secure by looking for a lock icon in the address bar, immediately after the address of the web site.
To view more information about the security, double click on the lock and a window will open that will display more information about the security of the website. Make sure that the web address that is shown here matches the site that you are visiting.
With Firefox, look at your security icon (it looks like a padlock). If it is locked, the site is secure. If it is unlocked, this means that the site is not secure and you should not input your credit card number or any other personal information such as bank account or social security numbers.
For more information about the security, you can click on the padlock.
Make sure that it is a reputable site that you are ordering from. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Verify that the site you are looking at is really where you are at. A recent security flaw in Internet Explorer allowed websites to "hide" their true address, therefore by faking a valid, reputable website, they were able to steal personal information. To verify that a website is really what it should be, in Internet Explorer, you can right click on the website and select Properties.
In the resulting window, there will be an Address fields. Make sure that this field matches the website that you are supposed to be at. If it is different, don't give out any information to the site in question.